CSRinsights: Maximize Impact from Reporting

Four Techniques to Focus on Strategic Outcomes

Recording of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) activities is appearing with greater frequency in business models, annual reports, company collateral, and a variety of outward facing communications.If done correctly, the returns can be huge –though how many companies are placing the appropriate time, effort and value in generating these reports?

Sixty-nine percent of corporations create a dedicated section (when reporting) to showcase employee engagement, charitable giving, volunteerism, total community expenditure, etc., according to Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).  However, only a small percentage of these corporations focus on qualitative measurements.  Furthermore, a lack of reporting guidelines related to employee engagement, which is still widely considered a “nice-to-have” over a “must-have” for the company‟s business strategy, leaves interpretation open for how companies can present the results to be more effective.

Considering the fact that employee engagement correlates with job satisfaction and loyalty, maximizing the impact from reporting volunteer hours and dollar amounts can be essential.  Focus on the strategic outcomes, not the input, so audiences understand how employee community engagement relays back to a sustainable workplace culture and social benefits.  We‟ve compiled four suggested techniques that may help you in your reporting efforts.

YourCause consults Elaine Cohen, CEO at BeyondBusiness

Beyond Business is a social and environmental business consulting firm, specializing in CSR strategy and roadmap development, implementation of CSR processes, reporting and assurance. They work globally with large corporate clients, SME’s and non profits, offering a full range of CSR and sustainability expertise.

1. Construct Quantifiable Programs

Companies commonly promote the quantitative aspects of their programs (e.g., the large amount of hours volunteered by an employee base).Less frequently, however, do they report the qualitative impact of those numbers (e.g., how those hours were served and the difference it made in a family, community or region‟s way of life).

Create tangible goals within your volunteer and philanthropic programs that asses impact within a community and business.It‟s key to communicate these tangible expectations to employees, helping them understand both the social and organizational benefits of CSR activities.Fifty percent of companies reporting on cause-related material do not indicate general approaches or goals behind programs, according to GRI, which only detracts overall engagement and participation.

Incorporate unit tracking and feedback loops to report step-by-step program information and progress.To illustrate, if a company has a tree planting day, then unit reporting allows employees to track how many trees they planted. Thus, the metrics could be further used to summarize the impact of total carbon offset and, lastly, how it influenced the community‟s way of life.

2. Keep a Local Focus on Global Operations

It‟s common to see global companies report on their programs at a high level, which is meaningless to local stakeholders, according to Elaine Cohen, CEO of Beyond Business,a corporate social responsibility consulting firm. Perhaps „meaningless,‟ because such reporting does not break down local impact by region, keep content relevant to employees, nor demonstrate the diversity throughout the program that caters to their native culture.

Increase your efforts to produce local reporting that identifies cultural and local impact. Breakdown the results of such local impact within defined geographical metrics, and distribute the results to regional leaders to ensure greater understanding of employee preferences in giving and volunteerism, which often times feeds valuable information into future program strategies.

Geographically design your programs to serve and impact specific regions.A well-designed program will support localized reporting that can deliver each location a sense of ownership and inherent autonomy, while maintaining the overarching affiliation between the region and company.

3. Presentation is Everything

An approach that is old in the books but goes a long way –presentation is everything.The same applies when it comes to effective reporting.Internal and external reception of all reported information will be dictated by how it is presented.Are you enticing your stakeholders, customers, employees, and potential partners? Or are you putting them to sleep?

Creatively craft your final reports in a manner that is motivating to all your readers, giving them something to relate and engage with.Qualitative information can often times become a motivational factor for employees to increase their involvement and encourage others to understand the tangible outcomes resulting from their company‟s programs.

Go beyond numbers and enhance reports with emotion inducing methods. Use pictures, diagrams, and antidotes to further stakeholders‟ perceptions and capture the reader‟s attention. General testimonials and case studies help to increase attraction towards employees by providing detailed background information on how they developed a program and where it‟s headed in the future.Less than 40 percent of U.S. companies include testimonials and stories, according to PWC CSR Trends 2010 Report. This delivers transparency and ultimately, will give others a comprehensive, feel-good idea of WHERE and HOW philanthropic and volunteering efforts are going.

Telling and reading about employees cause-related stories provides direction for other colleagues, has a positive effect on a corporation’s reputation, and reinforces a feel-good energy. – Elaine Cohen, www.b-yond.biz

4. Deliver in a Device-Driven World

In the age of Facebook, Twitter, smarts phones and tablets, the method and frequency in which information is delivered plays a significant role in how stakeholders receive the success of a CSR program.In our device-driven world, annual paper reports are insufficient.The general expectation evolved beyond delivered reports, to real-time reporting, and is quickly moving toward real-time, permission-based, geo-distributed reporting.Therefore, finding the optimal method to deliver all results can mean the difference between buy-in (support) or not.

Deliver on-the-go. Recent survey data suggests that roughly 50 percent of all companies in the US with more than 100 employees plan on ramping up their use of tablets throughout their organization within the next 24 months, according to CIO Magazine.Furthermore, the increase in mobile capabilities firmly sets in place a multi-device strategy from the executive level and beyond.

Start from the top. At YourCause, we hear (and see) an increased demand to deliver all key stakeholders access to the right data, right now, from the right place.CEO „app‟ dashboards displaying key business metrics for internal programs, data accessibility from a mobile device, and „on-demand‟ reporting (real-time) is quickly becoming not only a reality, but a norm.

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